No matter what you do, you are a networker.
Home and auto insurance salespeople network with mortgage people. Mortgage people network with real estate agents. Real estate agents network with anyone who might buy a house, or anyone who talks to a lot of people who do. Nonprofit workers network with philanthropists. Engineers should network with other engineers. Stay-at-home mothers network with parents in the PTA. Elon Musk and Bill Gates, well, honestly, I’m not sure exactly who they network with, but I’m sure it’s an interesting group of fine folks.
I started networking 18 years ago when I was a community newspaper reporter (not all news stories are sent to you in the form of a press release). Reporters are an awkward bunch in a networking environment. Most people show up ready to talk. Reporters are there to listen. A networker’s first instinct is to pump his or her fellow networkers up. A reporter’s is to keep a good distance and understand what’s going on. It didn’t take me long to realize I was a bit of a wet blanket in those environments, so to spruce things up I started wearing a fedora hat, like an old-timey reporter. It helped a lot.
These days I network as a mortgage banker. My uniform is nice slacks, a nice button-down and a jacket. While I’m still a pretty good listener, I’m a much better talker than I used to be. When I first went all in as a mortgage banker five years ago,
I went on sites like Meetup.com and attended every meeting I could find. From chamber of commerce events to nine people in a Bagel Boys, all acting like millionaires wanting to sign me up for insurance policies. You may not know this, but almost every minute of every weekday, there is a networking event going on somewhere in the metro area. I spent a lot of time trying to find them, until I found Joel’s List.
This is a weekly e-mail sent out by Joel Peskin, who owns Joel’s Carpet Service. It compiles almost every networking event in the north metro area into one place.
I then learned that Peskin also hosted his own events, which he calls The Big Event. I figured this guy was the networking guru, so, with my reporter’s instincts, I sought him out. I expected a slick-talker in a suit. I got a thick New York-accent in jeans and a T-shirt.
Five years later, I’ve narrowed my networking to a few consistent groups and I’ve become friends with Joel Peskin. His Big Events, which started with about 12 people in 2011, now host several hundred people at a time. And Joel’s List goes out to about 10,000 people. So in writing about networking, I asked Joel to offer some advice.
“Live networking is so much better than cold-calling,” he said. “When you are networking, you can hear and feel if they have any interest in what you are doing.
And you can learn what they are doing. You just get a much better sense of the person.”
If you have networked for a while, you know it is about consistency. You are not going to win the room in one visit and walk away with referrals. It takes time to win people over. They want to trust you first. Joel gave me five good tips to pass on:
NEVER come with “commission breath” (this term is used for someone who is always in a selling mode).
Attend with a smile and be polite.
Have a name tag and business cards.
Be a good listener. It’s not all about you.
Make friends. People do business with friends.
So if you’re nervous about networking, you don’t have to win over the room. Just make a few friends. If you want to get on Joel’s List, go to www.joelslist.com. Or you can also learn about one of his new ventures at www.metroatlantabusinessassociation.com.